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What you need to know for 10/22/2017

Editorial: 'Transparent' report for their eyes only

Editorial: 'Transparent' report for their eyes only

Promises, promises, but no public report by Schenectady school district

How convenient that a law firm hired by the Schenectady school district has advised it to, under no terms, disclose any of the contents of the “independent” investigation it commissioned on l’affaire Raucci. That’s not what district taxpayers paid $100 an hour for, not what district officials promised at the time they announced the investigation, and certainly not what is needed to restore any credibility to a school administration that has lost it over this and a series of other issues in recent months.

Steve Raucci, of course, is the former buildings and grounds supervisor and union chief who was arrested in February and charged with terrorism for setting explosives and otherwise vandalizing the property of people who had “crossed” him. The incidents began in 2001 and continued up to the time he was arrested.

When it soon became clear that some of those people had worked with or for Raucci, and that he had bullied them or others on the job as well, questions naturally arose about how district officials could have had a guy like this around and not known what he was doing. The questions still haven’t been answered, and subsequent revelations, including lawsuit affidavits and other written documents, indicate they did know about at least some of it, and chose to ignore it.

The investigation was supposed to answer those questions for the public, to be thorough and transparent in the words of then-Board President Jeff Janiszewski, whose own involvement was supposedly to be investigated. But from the start, it was tainted by the fact that the investigator, Rachel Rissetto, is a friend of the school district’s own lawyer and isn’t a real investigator but a human resources director for BOCES.

That’s not to say she wasn’t capable of doing a serious, comprehensive investigation. But to have any confidence in that it would be necessary to know whom she spoke to, what she looked at and what she found, even if some names and specifics were redacted for reasons of privacy.

Despite the earlier promises about transparency, it didn’t take long after Rissetto delivered her report for the board to start putting it under wraps, at first not even acknowledging they had it, then refusing Freedom of Information requests to see it. Then they promised a “summary” written by Rissetto. Now, nothing, on the entirely predictable advice of the law firm defending the district against lawsuits brought by Raucci’s alleged victims.

Why did they bother? Nobody asked them to do the investigation. Few believed in its credibility then, and no one can possibly now. “I think it’s very important to do this to maintain the trust in our school system,” said Janiszewski at the time the report was commissioned. Mission not accomplished.

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